What Happened to Narasimha After He Killed Hiranyakashipu?

The sun is high and hot, slashing the skin, but the breeze and the swaying coconut trees soften it, scattering shadows and cooling the meandering unpaved path I follow. The long, deceiving coconut leaves suddenly move to reveal the monolith I search for. Six and a half meters tall, the monolith of Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu, overpowers me, making me feel helpless and tiny, an ant standing infront of an incensed elephant.


He sits there cross-legged, immense and majestic, back straight, cobra-hood throwing shadows on his sunkissed face. His tennis-ball-size eyes blaze, no matter where I stand. I am dwarfed.

Narasimha is an angry god. He broke demon Hiranyakashipu’s neck like a twig and clawed his stomach and wore his intestines as a garland, screaming in extreme delight. All because the demon king had forbidden his son Prahlad from worshipping Vishnu in the Asuric kingdom and was trying to murder the devout boy.

But not many know of what happened to him after he had done his duty for the gods. In one of the most spectacular tales I’ve come across during my readings of the puranas, the same Narasimha, after killing the demon, couldn’t control his own wrath and like an unstoppable nuclear bomb, kept exploding, burning and destroying the universe till Shiva, the god of destruction, had to intervene at the request of the devas and stop Narasimha.

The tale saw two superheroes of mythology face each other in an ultimate fight. One version says, Shiva in the form of Sharabha, an eight-legged beast, with two heads, and a strange mix of all kinds of carnivorous animals defeated Vishnu’s avatar.

The other version is vociferous that Narasimha took the form of Gandaberunda, a more ferocious bird-animal mash-up and blew Sharabha to smithereens. Whatever version you believe in, the story explores the uncontrollability of anger and how it is capable of destruction. I wrote another version, in comic format as part of my book The Skull Rosary. For that’s how tales are. They belong to no one, yet everyone feels entitled to take credit on knowing the ‘right version’.

The tipped ASI board standing like a drunk sentry near Narasimha’s monolith informs me this one is not the ugra or the angry form that tried to destroy the universe. This one is the benevolent Lakshmi Narasimha, his anger abated, his desire to destruct lessened by the tiny Lakshmi who sits on his right thigh, marred invisible by ravages of time which have broken everything but her hand, still carved around his waist. But the way his fangs pop out of his oblong cavity of a stretched mouth, his smile looks more like a snarl and it is difficult to believe that Lakshmi has any tempering effect on the guy.

In Andhra Pradesh, the tribals have their own tale. They recall how Hiranyakashipu ordered his guards to throw Prahalada in the sea, placed a boulder on him as punishment for worshipping Vishnu and that the child was rescued by Samudra, the ocean god himself. There is no mention of Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s sister, who is part of all grandma tales in northern states of the country.

The same Samudra, due to a curse was born in a tribe named Chenchu. After Narasimha had killed Hiranyakashipu, the gods invites him back to the divine abode, but he refused. Instead, he travelled through the jungles of Andhra Pradhesh where he fell for a local girl, Chenchita, the daughter of Samudra reborn, a tribal huntress who wielded a bow.

The love tale delicately describes how Narasimha plucked a thorn out of Chenchita’s foot and so wanted to marry her. Chenchita didn’t say yes immediately. She wanted to be sure he’s the right husband for her and so tested him on his food gathering and hunting skills, important for survival in the jungle. From then on, Narasimha stayed on, as a son-in-law of the tribe, coming in their dreams, to cure them of ailments.

In Simhachalam, ten miles from Vishakhapatnam, he is a composite form of Varaha and Narasimha. Scholars claim the deity is local, assimilated into the Vaishnav mainstream centuries later. Centuries ago, so the locals claim, this was a Shiva temple. When Ramanuja visited this temple, he defeated the local priests in a debate and so converted the temple into a Vaishnava one.

Lord Varaha stonecarved statue at Simhachalam temple.

I am quite fascinated with upmanship between the Vaishnava and Shiva cults, something which comes out very strongly in the story of Narasimha and Sharabha. Being a storyteller who thrives in versions rather than limit myself to one of them, I converted the whole Sharabha retelling into a dream in my graphic rendition, The Skull Rosary. For in dreams, even the impossible becomes possible. It’s Prahlad, the biggest devotee who has the dream about this cosmic fight.

The one where Narasimha, the god he worships goes out of control, trying to destroy the universe. It’s a dream, or maybe not. Prahlad is not sure but he sees the one he idolizes destroying the universe with his ferocious anger. How can his god be so destructive? And how can his god in turn be destroyed by another of the pantheon?

And if you’ve seen the blasphemous dream, how do you erase it? At the end of the story, Prahlada, who if you remember in the story is merely 12 years old when he sees his god come in Narasimha form and brutally kill his father, is terrified and confused.

In modern times, someone would’ve suggested a psychiatrist to analysis his dreams, but at that time, all he has is Narada Muni. So he goes to the Muni and asks: ‘Who is stronger, Shiva or Vishnu’s avatar?’ Narada smiles and says: ‘Vishnu and Shiva are like seasons. One comes after another. One dies, one is born. Like life and death. Don’t fall into the trap of comparison, the one that feed arrogant blood.‘ For he’s Narada, the journalist of Indian mythology, and will never take a side. Or will he?

If you know any other versions of Narasimha folklore, please do add them below in the comments section. For stories that other readers have posted, head to SwarajyaMag.com and enjoy! 


A different version of this came out in Discover India (January 2015) as my first column with them along with stars like Ruskin Bond (awesome author) and Rocky Singh (Highway on My Plate).



The necessity to talk of things taboo

I recently went to Comic Con Mumbai to launch my graphic novel The Skull Rosary. The week before it was maddening; last minute edits, waiting, back and forth and the general nervousness before anything goes to press. The one thing that struck me, and struck me hard again and again was a sense of self-censorship that we as creators – me as a writer and Vivek Goel as an artist as well as the publisher of the book –  were applying to the book. We were all slightly scared, of putting out things that might offend. And in a book which was made to offend, we softened things that shouldn’t have been softened and loaded it with disclaimers. I bet we will still get some angry emails and posts and tweets. After all, self-righteousness is fashionable in the society.


Talking about transgression, or things that are taboo, that deviate from the norm is important today for us as creative people and for readers. Especially since we as a society are becoming so rigid, so unacceptable of other point of views recently. Upon just seeing The Skull Rosary’s summary, a journalist asked me if I wasn’t skeptical that this book and the way we portray Shiva and other deities will cause protests. Because protests by those who think their religion and moral stance is better than others’ is a done thing in our society and happening a little too often in our country. I answered yes, sure. Everytime some boundaries are breached, some people have a problem. You can’t help that. But as a storyteller I am willing to take the risk because stories have always been and will always be about questioning the status quo, to become a mirror to the society.

As a creative person, it’s not a choice for me to break boundaries. I write, I create because I want to break boundaries. I want to question the status quo, to force myself and the readers to look at our own filth, to touch it, gobble it, taste its grubbiness.  I feel it’s my duty to transgress in everything I create, to explore the darkness inside and outside of us. For if that doesn’t happen in stories, then how will change happen? How will we progress? Move onto something new? Become (if it’s possible) better?

The Skull Rosary for me was all about exploring taboo subjects. The idea behind all five of its stories, whether its dialogue or art was to break down boundaries, both of the story and of the graphic novel as a structure. Brahma’s fifth head explores the issue of incest and is written in verse form because rhythm touches the soul in a way language can never do. So you have poetry which was inspired by the Greek Furies in comic format. The blind demon is the story of Andhaka who is blind and consumes by the desire to see. What happens when you get consumed by a desire? When it eats you up whole? So much so that you can cross any boundary to get there? Prahlad’s dream even explores what happens when a god gets drunk with desire. Then there’s the Oedipal complex, where a son desires his mother. That’s in The Other Woman. In Goat Head, a king lets his daughter die because for him a status in society is more important. These stories explore our filth, our dirty secrets and our evil sides.

Shiva to me represents everything that’s taboo in our society. He teaches us to accept everything, even those in the fringes. He’s okay with murderers, thieves, sexual deviants, prostitutes. In other words he is the guy to go to if you are on the fringes of the society. And in a society that is shrinking in acceptance, more and more people are going to the fringes, to that which is considered unnatural, taboo or unacceptable. Hello, Section 377 anyone?

On another note, the novel I am writing currently is also feeling the pressure to be self-censored. In every sentence I write, the censor board in me tries to soften the crassness, the violence, the frustration, the expletives. Sometimes I bow to it, but mostly I try and ignore the moral police inside of me. As I keep hoping that we as a society will learn to do as well.

Revealed! The awesome cover of Skull Rosary



Finally I can talk about it 🙂 This is the main cover for my upcoming 100 page graphic novel The Skull Rosary done by acclaimed artists Lalit Kumar Sharma and Jagdish Kumar with colours by Holy Cow Entertainment’s own Yogesh R Pugaonkar. The cover is going to be launched as a poster in the upcoming Delhi Comic Con. As I have repeatedly said: I just can’t wait to see this book in my hands! 🙂